Kenya will play in the Las Vegas leg of the World Rugby 7s series on 1st – 2nd March 2019 in what is one of the most well attended social occasions that brings together Kenyans from the various states where they are domiciled.
To tap into this wonderful event, one of the newest and hottest Radio stations in Kenya –NRG – has risen to the occasion with creative activation and linkages, hoping to marshal the Kenyan-American crowd and boost its listenership.
In Kenya, NRG have contracted Rugby 7s star COLLINS INJERA as their brand ambassador, and who has taken up his role with gusto. Already a video to Kenyans is doing the rounds and rallying Kenyans to come out and support the young team.
NRG has also paid accommodation, airfares and tickets to the event for INJERA plus a negotiated personal fee, all of which is a reflection of the brand power he possesses and the aggression of his agent. Injera is probably one of only 2 players in Rugby to have an agent.
Collins Injera has built his brand profile over the last decade with some of Rugby 7s most impressive performances and whose exploits have even surpassed those of his elder brother – Humphrey “Tall” Khayange.
Prior to this engagement, Injera had been drafted as brand ambassador for one of the Samsung smart phone –Samsung Galaxy Mega – that was launched in the market around 2013.
The only other Kenya 7s Rugby player to have scored a brand endorsement deal in recent times is long-time Captain Andrew Amonde with Guinness Stout.
Things have been particularly tight for Kenya Rugby 7s players since they downed their tools in protest at the reduced salaries being offered by the KRU after the collapse of several sponsorship deals and Governments stubborn delay in bridging the shortfall that was created artificially by the departure of betting company SPORTPESA.
You will remember that when Government increased tax on lotteries and betting from 15% to 35%, Sportpesa promised to withdraw its sports sponsorships if the decision was not reviewed and rescinded. True to their word, on 31st December 2017 they terminated their contract with Kenya Rugby Union.
At the time of pulling out, the Sportpesa contract enabled KRU to pay the Kenya 7s players an average of Ksh. 170,000/- per month plus additional performance bonuses
Currently, the players have snubbed a pay offer of an average of Ksh. 100,000/- with no performance bonuses insisting instead that they would only return to the team when the rates reverted to the Ksh. 170,000/- at a minimum (…na TALANTA IHESHIMIWE!)
It is generally known and accepted that Collins Injera is a prime mover and key instigator of this strike by Kenya Rugby 7s players, and sadly, the players who have agreed with him do not have the same brand profiles that he does, which would enable them to attract endorsement and ambassadorship from commercial brands.
When Collins Injera says “he cannot play for Ksh.100,000/- because he has better things to do..”, he is inadvertently telling his teammates that he has the capacity to attract revenues from side gigs like the one with the NRG money-spinner.
Virtually all other Kenya 7s players (on strike) have gone back to their club sides where the highest paid is Amonde at KCB with a salary of 40,000/- or Willy “Lomu” Ambaka with Ksh. 25,000/- at Kenya Harlequins.
These senior players like Amonde have one or two years maximum on the clock before they have to retire completely from playing. How does he choose to squander a full year sitting in the sidelines? Does he even have a retirement plan for when his playing career is over? Strange character, this one!
Another lucky individual who managed to “escape” the Kenya 7s setup after the team had defecated and soiled its bed in Paris (figuratively) and which led to exodus of sponsors, is the teams former Strength and Conditioning Coach – Geoffrey Kimani.
Kimani is now safely perched as the S&C Coach of the Ugandan National 7s team.
Virtually NONE of the current crop of striking players have a viable option B to turn to once this Kenya 7s gig runs out (as it surely must, at some point).
Once Kenya 7s gets relegated, and with it we burn any prospect of proper sponsorship, these players’ goose will have been cooked anyway. No one will want to touch any of them with a ten-foot pole and the KRU will be better placed raising another set of brand new stars. That is just reality!
But back to Collins Injera, just to show you how diabolical he really is, do you know that his younger brother MICHEAL AGEVI has come into the same Kenya 7s squad currently in the U.S?
So, on the one hand Injera asks his fellow striking teammates to hold fast until the KRU relents and offers them the non-existent Ksh. 170,000/-, while he happily takes a huge endorsement deal from NRG by associating with the same 7s Rugby team that he is on strike from…and in what must be a double-shot of good fortune for the family, little brother AGEVI comes into the squad, agrees to earn Ksh. 100,000/- per month and will maintain the position for as long as the other players remain on strike.
Doesn’t this make you reflect on the lyrics of the song “who’s foolin who?”
It was a shock and surprise to hear big brother Khayange speak in support of the actions of the Kenya 7s team in Paris last year. We had expected that his elevation into NOCK would have opened his eyes to the true state of Sports in Kenya, and not the romanticized notions that play out in the minds of players and fans.
What does he have to say now that his younger sibling has been drafted into the current squad?
There seems to be just too much double–speak in this family. PUH!
If you are wondering why Rugby is plagued by poor choices and rubbish decision-making by the playing and coaching units, you just have to analyze the real stories and motives behind their actions in Paris and their on-going strike. Please allow us to illustrate with some easily verifiable examples, that this problem has reached epic proportions.
Chris Diaz, Marketing Director for Bidco Africa, has been a godsend for Kenya 7s rugby in his last 2 postings. He was previously the Marketing Director at Kenya Airways at the time when KQ was the longtime shirt sponsor for the Kenya 7s team.
In one of the most mind-blowingly progressive moves for sports, Diaz convinced the KQ Board to adopt the Kenya 7s players as employees of KQ and rope them into a scheme where they could own homes here in Nairobi.
KQ employees had negotiated a scheme for 2 and 3 bedroom apartments in the Nyayo-Embakasi area which if taken up at the time 6 years ago) would cost Ksh. 2.8 million and Ksh. 3.8 million respectively. Current estimates place those houses at around Ksh. 5 million.
These houses, now complete and handover imminent (after a court case over costs was finally resolved in favour of the homeowners) was one of those opportunities that you can only get access to in favored circumstances.
Would you believe that only one player took up the offer and is now well on his way to occupying his own home. The other players, some now retired still live on the grind, most times playing hide-and-seek with landlords or proudly sharing pictures of village houses made of wood off-cuts.
Chris Diaz knew then, that sports is a short term venture, if you are lucky not to get serious injury, and after you have served your country and your sport well, you should be able to have secured yourself somehow.
The Kenya 7s players instead became famous for buying the most high-end domestic electronics, mobile phone handsets, “Beats by Dre” headsets, drinking the choicest whiskys and bedding fine women…
But again, we digress…
When Chris Diaz moved to Bidco Africa as its Marketing Director, he once again went out on a limb for Kenya 7s team and convinced Bidco Chairman Vimal Shah to put some money into the Kenya 7s team. This is currently the only sponsorship available for the Kenya 7s team – a 20-million shilling annual deal that is visible at the back of the Kenya 7s jersey.
Diaz had also been appointed to the Chairmanship of BRAND KENYA, a parastatal which falls under the Ministry of Toursim and tasked with the elevation and visibility of the Kenyan brand.
Therefore in 2018, after the withdrawal of sponsorship by Sportpesa, Chris Diaz was personally responsible for channeling Ksh. 40 million into the Kenya 7s National team (Ksh. 20m from Bidco Africa and Ksh. 20m from Brand Kenya)
Now this is where the moronism kicks in…
When Kenya 7s team arrived back in the country from the Las Vegas –Vancouver legs of the World circuit in the early days of March 2018, and having performed well, Diaz wanted to appreciate their effort and obviously leverage his sponsorship through a media event with Citizen TV.
However, due to an earlier scheduling with partners GM on that Tuesday, head coach Innocent “Namcos” Simiyu cancelled this sponsor engagement, and via email confirmed to Diaz that the team would be available the next Friday.
So Diaz made arrangements with Standard Group to host the team at their Mombasa Road offices late Friday afternoon. Come Friday, everybody else was gathered at SG studios but the Kenya 7s team was nowhere to be seen!
Remember, this a sponsors event that had been agreed on, just 3 days before and Diaz with him communications team had left their Thika offices earlier in the day, so as to be present at the event on Mombasa rd.
Frantic calls were made trying to find out where the team was, maybe they were delayed in bad traffic on Mombasa road or some other understandable explanation. When the callers finally got a hold of Namcos, Lo and behold, he told them that he had cancelled the event because according to him, the team had already done a media event and he therefore did not see the need to overburden the players with another one!
Things got so desperate that some KRU Directors and Diaz resorted to pleading with Namcos to allow the players come to the event, but the more they pushed Namcos, the more stubborn and resolute he became, before finally switching off his phone.
Wasn’t this the biggest FUCK YOU that a group of entitled little shits could give the only corporate sponsor willing to stick out his neck for them, when all other possibilities had dried up? You flash this man the middle finger yet his best efforts are the ones getting you paid a salary. Why would Diaz who likely earns a seven-figure salary be bothering with the bloated egos of guys who he pays 170k per month?
Namcos is supposedly a super sharp guy, with a degree in Actuarial sciences, and holds the position of Department Head at a local Insurance company, which also sponsors sports.
What wouldn’t you do for your sponsor? Shouldn’t you bend over backwards for him or accommodate his reasonable wishes?
This is when the members of the Rugby fraternity started to query the sanity of Namcos because they could not reconcile his calm and reasonable public demeanor with the shoveller of bullshit that he had turned out to be.
Undeterred, Diaz proposed and convinced his Brand Kenya Board that the Kenya 7s property was a worthwhile proposition.
This was around the same time that Rwanda had pulled off a quick coup by getting onto the sleeve of the Arsenal playing shirt for the sum of $ 10 million per year.
Negotiations began in earnest between BK and KRU and both finally settled for the last 4 legs of the World circuit. These were Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Paris.
KRU made the offer and BK accepted to pay Ksh. 10 million per leg of the circuit which would have translated to Ksh. 40 million for the cash-strapped KRU, who could now plan to see off the season, without downgrading the players’ and technical bench contracts and salaries.
Information about this deal somehow leaked to the Kenya 7s team before sign-off.
As with ALL Government contracts, drafts have to be sent to the AG for approval, a process that takes a bit of time. While this was taking place, Brand Kenya secretariat proposed to upgrade the agreement and make the Kenya 7s players true ambassadors for the country.
This would involve awarding the team Ksh. 100,000/ per person bonus for their collective images and some training on how to carry and conduct themselves while in the role of ambassadors.
A problem arose because in 2018, Hong Kong and Singapore legs of the World series sat in between the commonwealth games in Gold Coast, Australia. Thus once the team departed for Hong Kong, it would then participate in Commonwealth games before winding up with Singapore.
The team was therefore scheduled to be away from the country for an entire month.
BK and KRU agreed that since the Kenya 7s team would be away from the country for an entire month, and the contract was in the bureaucratic Government process, the team could do a photoshoot before departure so that BK could continue with their planned promotional programs even in the absence of the team.
In any event, none of the players and technical bench were to be involved in the actual contract signing, so Brand Kenya reasonably assumed that the sign-off and processing of payments could all be done while the team was on official assignment. Even the branding of the playing jerseys would need to be done before the contract was signed.
Namcos hit the roof when he heard that his players would be required to participate in a photoshoot with BK. He stormed the KRU (in his characteristic style) and demanded to know why and who this photoshoot would be about.
He arrogantly asked the KRU CEO, “have you signed a contract with Brand Kenya for them to demand this?” and the players later told the CEO with finality that there would be no photoshoot “until the ink on the contract was dry.”
To Namcos and his Kenya 7s team, the fact that the deal was being fronted by the same man whose sponsorship was at the back of the jersey and was keeping their heads above the water did not matter. Kenya 7s players and technical bench had now given themselves the role of overseer, that they had to be consulted about every single commercial deal regarding the team.
And so, with the players also incited not to participate in the photoshoot, and the contract taking time within the AGs office, Kenya 7s departed for their month-long playing engagements.
Brand Kenya, now unable to justify the inclusion of the Hong Kong and Singapore legs of the World circuit in its plans, removed them from the contract and in the process, that is how Kenya Rugby lost itself a cool Ksh. 20 million.
Innocent “Namcos” Simiyu epitomized the expression “bad faith” in the relationship between Kenya 7s team and the KRU/Sponsors.
The month went by very quickly and the team made its return to Kenya.
By this time the contract between BK and KRU was ready for signing and execution. This contract would only cover the last 2 remaining legs of the World circuit, namely London and Paris.
Once the signing was done, Brand Kenya had organized a huge launch event at the Raddisson Blu Hotel, with all media and other senior personalities invited. It was the event where BK announces to the World in general and Kenyans in particular, just where they have applied the taxpayers money held under their stewardship.
Would you believe that Namcos and the Kenya 7s team completely snubbed the launch event and just to show KRU how little he thought of the deal, Namcos instead sent academy players (completely unknown and without profile).
By this time it had become apparent to the Rugby fraternity that they were dealing with someone who had a split personality disorder.
Eventually, the team arrived in Paris for the last leg of the entire series in June 2018. The players did the unthinkable and covered up the Brand Kenya logo before taking the field.
Chris Diaz and Vimal Shah were in the stands watching the unfolding drama in shock and disbelief.
In Kenya, journalists like the irascible Mike Okinyi were live tweeting events to Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Rashid Echesa and Nzioka Waita. All other media houses picked up the story and ran with it. It created a mini-crisis in the country and drew the attention of everyone who has the capacity to sponsor the team.
It was a total corporate turnoff.
Nzioka Waita, Uhuru Kenyattas’ Chief of Staff, called Chris Diaz directly and asked him to deliver a message to the team, that the boys should restore the playing jerseys to their normal state, all other matters would be resolved by CS Echesa immediately upon return.
So Diaz dutifully made his way to the team hotel in Paris and asks to see the players, instead he is met by Namcos to whom he explains the message from Waita, but more importantly, he details to the coach just how far back their stunt has set the game in Kenya.
Namcos listened quietly and then “politely” asks Diaz to leave, telling him that “he and his advice are neither needed nor welcome there.
That is the reason why the entire Rugby fraternity agreed that Namcos had to be let go despite the intervention of Sports CS Rashid Echesa following an outcry by the Kenya 7s players.
Ironically, Namcos is now back at his old job, as a senior executive at a local insurance firm, while the players he stewarded continue with their strike.
Maybe it’s true that University degrees are overrated, because if you compared Namcos to his predecessor Benjamin Ayimba, who didn’t get much schooling anyhow, the latter appeared to have more common sense awareness of his own and his teams’ obligations to sponsors and partners.
Even slay queens have a modicum of loyalty to their “sponsors” and “blessers”and we don’t understand how this notion completely eluded Namcos.
KRU created these little demons and it has no choice but to exorcise them, no matter how violently or painful it might be. This could mean accepting the fact that Kenya needs to be relegated from the World 7s Series, to shed off this malignancy that afflicts the game.
Because facts are stubborn, allow us to share a schedule of payment dates for salaries and allowances to Kenya 7s players over close to 2 years and you can judge for yourself whether the team was justified in defiling the sponsors brand on the playing jersey in Paris..
Remember, the delay itself was occasioned by the refusal of the team to to engage before travelling for a month and in the process, losing out on the Ksh. 20 million sponsorship.
Why would anyone in their right minds cause a catastrophic sponsor allergy to their own team by covering up a sponsors brand because of a delay of Ksh. 100,000/- bonus? Because clearly, the salaries and bonuses were being paid on time over a continuous 18-month period. What was so special about this bonus that compelled Players and the bench to take leave of their senses in Paris?
The narrative being spun by the some close friends of players, that it was about payments is no longer washing…
I have a feeling that the current players strike is an attempt by the players to forment a crisis, hoping that the Government will once again intervene and pay them off as it did last year when players threatened not to participate in the World Cup in San Francisco. Apparently Government “is not boarding” or buying this extortionist crap from the players.
We, the people of Western Kenya have a misplaced pride, where in some quarters we are referred to as MASKINI WAJEURI.
RIGHT OF REPLY (KITALE RUGBY CLUB)